The Cold War in Hotlanta: Crowley and Princeton Discuss Digitization Project at SAA

Meghan Wyatt and Rachel Van Unen present a case study on the digitization of Cold War manuscripts to SAA 2016

Last week I traveled to the Society of American Archivists annual conference in Atlanta, Ga to hear Crowley Senior Imaging Specialist, Meghan Wyatt, and Princeton University Library Archivist, Rachel Van Unen, discuss the digitization of Seeley G. Mudd Library’s Cold War manuscripts.

In the coming weeks you will be able to hear the discussion for yourself in Crowley’s first podcast. For now, get a taste of the project and the partnership between Crowley Imaging and Princeton University Libraries.

Project Origins

In 2012, the decision was made to digitize the most frequently used portions of five manuscript collections from Princeton University Library’s Cold War Manuscripts with the intent to create widespread public access on Princeton’s Finding Aids website. The collections include the professional correspondence, lectures, reports, administrative papers and photos of United States diplomats that document U.S. foreign policy and the origins of the Cold War.

Policy for Security
Documents such as the above, detailing U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War, were digitized for use on Princeton University Library’s website

Princeton was awarded a National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant to fund the digitization. The library sought to make the project a learning opportunity for future digitization efforts by purchasing book scanners for in-house scanning and creating project workflows.  In addition, select collections were designated for outsourced digitization, allowing the library to learn on their feet and still complete the project in a timely matter.

Choosing a Partner

Princeton submitted an RFQ to find a reliable and cost-effective imaging bureau for the project and Crowley was awarded the contract. The two organizations have worked together on many digitization projects, including the Latin American Ephemera Collection, the American Civil Liberties Union Collection, the Middle East Folios, Princeton yearbooks and more. One could say Princeton and Crowley have a history of digitizing history but this is not something Wyatt takes for granted, as she emphasizes, “We are honored that Princeton continues to choose Crowley for their digitizing projects. It speaks to the quality of our production and to the successes we’ve had in working together.”


The first step in achieving a successful digitization project is a detailed statement of work (SOW). The SOW ensures that both parties understand the scope of the work required. For this project, file types, page counts per collection, necessary file preparation (such as staple removal or white paper backings for onion skin files), technical specifications for image quality, quality control processes and deliverables were all detailed in the SOW.


Princeton started the workflow by preparing the documents for scanning by removing staples, categorizing the collections and creating shipment manifests prior to document delivery. Staggered batches of materials were sent to Crowley’s imaging services bureau in Frederick, Md. Each batch was checked in against the manifest to ensure all documents had been received and to verify document condition.

Zeutschel 14000 book scanner
The Zeutschel OS 14000 planetary scanner provides high quality scans large-format documents

Crowley used a range of large-format planetary scanners including the Zeutschel 14000 to scan the documents in 400 dpi and at 8-bit grayscale. The Zeutschel book scanner was chosen for its ability to create high-resolution images of varying sizes while remaining gentle on the original materials.

Since the project was funded through the NHPRC grant, monthly reporting was required to monitor progress.  Reports included file names of pages scanned in the month, number of boxes scanned, cumulative number of pages and boxes scanned and the average rate of scanning per hour. These reports were later used in Princeton’s final project report that was sent to NHPRC.


On average, 46,598 images were manually scanned and processed every month. Nearly 400,000 images were scanned in total and are now available to view and download on Princeton’s Finding Aids website for public use.

Learn more about the digitizing capabilities of Crowley Imaging

For more information on the digital and analog conversion services offered by Crowley Imaging, please visit our website or call (240) 215-0224. General inquiries can be emailed to [email protected]. Stay connected and follow The Crowley Company on FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterest and YouTube.







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